General Michael Flynn headlined the Republican National Convention Monday night with a rousing speech that laid out what the next president must do in order to protect the United States and its interests around the globe.
His comments echoed those he delivered only months earlier at the National Center for Policy Analysis’ biannual Hatton W. Sumners Distinguished Lecture Series — an NCPA program where nationally and internationally renowned speakers address business leaders, college students and the general public on the the nation’s most pressing issues.
In a passionate address to NCPA supporters in March 2016, General Flynn spoke at length about the specific threat from terrorist organizations, adversarial governments and cyber belligerents, and the overlap among them. Flynn stressed the need to improve America’s intelligence capabilities, and made a spirited plea for the administration to engage its allies and moderates in the Middle East in order to defeat the rising tide of radical Islam. America must identify and work directly with those reformists like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi if we expect to see victory, Flynn said.
The defining moment at the NCPA event came when the General emphasized the importance of protecting national security information, and found himself genuinely dumbfounded that a candidate who so willfully compromised that material would still be considered worthy of the highest office. The findings from the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server released months later proved she had quite deliberately (but without malice) undermined the national security of the United States. As a veteran and former intelligence specialist like General Flynn, I found the compromise equally troubling, and now fear our intelligence capabilities may see a tremendous decline since sources who risk their lives to work with us will lack confidence that we can maintain their anonymity. I have addressed here why this extreme level of carelessness is so dangerous to U.S. security and why NOT charging Clinton further undermines our long-term capabilities.
Just as he had months earlier to NCPA guests, Flynn told the crowd at the RNC Convention that these threats facing America had to be confronted head-on with “unwavering integrity, renewed strength and unapologetic resolve.” He also noted that the U.S. military needed the support to undertake the missions asked of them. The president’s recent troop requests for Iraq and Afghanistan, absent the funding necessary to do so, proved yet again that he intends to prolong the fight without providing the support to the warfighter to accomplish the mission. It does not have to be this way, though.
There is a way to maintain and increase troop levels without adding more to the budget. For example, rerouting funds away from ambiguous climate change programs and related civilian positions, and eliminating the climate directive issued in January 2016 which saddles the military with unnecessary tactical considerations, would be the first step in maximizing efficiency while stabilizing expenditures (explained here). Another goal would be to address the rise in misplaced defense spending, which has only seen a decrease in American security — a paradox I have termed defenseless debt. Solving the problem, in part, would involve decreasing and moving executive slush funds, like the Overseas Contingency Operation account, back under defense control, while limiting Pentagon staff positions and decreasing spending on expensive and potentially harmful security assistance programs in places like Africa.
Each of these would be a first step in properly funding defense capabilities and will ensure the warfighter has the tools to protect America. Flynn says the threat must be faced head-on. But our forces cannot do so when leadership has its head in the sand.